Hot Cities of the Summer
Nation’s Hottest R&R Spot is Cool Location for R&D
The millions of travel-goers headed to Orlando this summer to enjoy shows that mesmerize and rides that thrill probably don’t realize that another world of high tech wizardry exists alongside this region’s world-famous theme parks. That’s because this top spot for R&R has also become known for its R&D. In fact, in his newly-released book, noted author Bill Holstein says Orlando and its diverse industry base offer ‘a creative stew’ and is ‘showing the way to the rest of Florida and other Sunbelt states.’
Holstein’s book, The Next American Economy, features Orlando as one of nine American cities that he predicts will bring on the next wave of economic growth and innovation. This accolade complements several others that Orlando has garnered so far this year, including recognition as a top ‘comeback city’ from Kiplinger.com, a ‘top location for minority entrepreneurs’ by Forbes and a ‘top business friendly city’ by Foreign Direct Investment.
“If you peel back Orlando’s onion, you’ll find deep layers of technology development, and scientific research and commercialization in many sectors and fields,” says Rick Weddle, president and CEO of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission – a group that works to attract targeted industry investment, help local businesses grow and create high wage jobs in the region. “Many people are surprised to discover the depth and breadth of Orlando’s high tech output. Our simulation industry alone annually generates a Gross Regional Product of more than $3 billion. Behind that impressive output are some of the greatest technical minds in the country.”
Weddle stresses that the ability to attract and retain top talent is an important competitive advantage. “Orlando could easily adopt the USA Networks’ slogan ‘Characters Welcome,’ and we don’t just mean those found in our theme parks. This region is home to ingenious, creative minds engaged in specialties ranging from researching solutions for diabetes, obesity and cancer, to developing immersive simulation training, game-based medical therapies, energy storage alternatives and much more.”
Orlando’s ‘creative stew,’ as Holstein describes it, represents a critical factor necessary to America’s overall economic growth. In a 2010 IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs from across the globe, creativity was cited as the #1 ‘leadership competency’ of the future.
Building on the notion of creativity, Holstein suggests that ‘idea factories’ found in places like Orlando breed new technologies that build up an entrepreneurial ecosystem. The system, in turn, creates clusters. And industry clusters, he contends, are what sets America apart from other countries.
In Orlando, several industry clusters have become nationally-recognized attractions of their own. The simulation industry, which Holstein spotlights in his book, encompasses technology research and development to deliver advancements in warfighter and weapons training; as well as in medical education, and emergency response training. Recognized as the national center for simulation, Orlando is home to companies and institutes that anchor this industry, including Lockheed Martin, the U.S. Army and Navy simulation procurement commands, and the University of Central Florida’s renowned Institute for Simulation and Training.
In the biotechnology realm, Orlando is home to one of the world’s fastest-growing ‘medical city’ developments – a cluster of health and science organizations which includes the new UCF College of Medicine, east coast headquarters of the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, a Nemours Children’s Research Hospital, a brand-new VA Medical Center, and more. On top of that, Orlando leads the nation in children’s healthcare with three major hospital systems making a combined multi-billion dollar investment in world-class healthcare programs for infants and children.
Already home to well-known entertainment giants, Orlando scored big last year with its new state-of-the-art Amway Center – home to the Orlando Magic and large-scale events. While the entertainment venue is new, the community has a long history as a hub to industry leaders who develop game-based and digital media technology for play, education and training. Those with a presence in the region include global powerhouse Electronic Arts, whose Orlando-based Tiburon studios is responsible for the popular Madden NFL video game series, as well as the House of Moves motion capture studio, and dozens of successful start-ups. Serving this industry is the UCF Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, a masters-level program which was this year named the second best video game school in North America.
Orlando’s clusters are bolstered by a thriving entrepreneur scene and an expanding network of business and technology incubators affiliated with UCF – now the second largest university in the country. UCF also administers the state’s GrowFL program, which specifically works to boost the growth of second-stage companies. In addition, the National Entrepreneur Center in Orlando, which brings together dozens of business organizations and resources under one roof, has been involved in $125 million worth of loans, coached 70,000 businesses and assisted in more than 700 new business launches.
For more information on business and industry in Orlando, as well as to inquire about starting up, expanding in or relocating to Central Florida, visit www.orlandoedc.com or call 407-422-7159.
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Jackie Kelvington, , 407.898.8489
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